Politics, Travel, and Family

I’m thinking of changing the name of this blog to something that more aptly describes its purpose and focus. When I started it a decade or so ago, my primary role was that of a mom. While it’s still the one that I hold most dear, my life and the lives of my children have changed greatly. They’re all responsible adults who left the nest many years ago. Some of them have children of their own, so grandmother is a role I’ve acquired too.

Should the blog’s title be Grandma Jayne’s Musings? No, I think it’s time to come up with something that describes my life as a wife, mother, grandmother, writer, retired educator, truth seeker, traveler, and child of the universe. Musings of a Matriarch? No, that’s not it either.

Today, my thoughts are about the crazy political scene and a recent trip to Alaska. Never far from my mind are thoughts of the children and grandchildren, so they’ll likely get more than a nod in this post.

First, I think I’ll be glad when the election is behind us. I say “think” because it all depends on who wins. Which way will he or she lead this great nation? How will the next administration’s policies affect the average American’s life, livelihood, and pursuit of happiness?

Today I’m disturbed by the prancing about, the finger pointing, and well, just the ugliness of not just the folks who are vying for the title, but also of the news people who are supposed (or so I thought) to tell us the truth. It’s becoming increasingly hard to distinguish fact from fiction. And don’t even get me started on the average Joe or Jane who wastes no opportunity to “slash and burn” every contender with whom they disagree. I refuse to become contentious about this (at least today) and will leave the hate mongering to those who are better at it than I.

Next topic: recent trip to the 49th state of this great union. It’s always good to see something a little different from one’s regular surroundings, and as Mark Twain famously said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

There are so many ways to live and love and greet and meet, and we (I) tend to forget about that as we move about in narrow, but safe, spheres. At the moment, I’m recalling the dignity and sheer joie de vivre of an Athabascan woman who won the hearts of all who heard her words on a September afternoon on Primrose Ridge in Denali National Park. Her life, though different from yours and mine, has meaning and integrity.

I can’t end this post without mentioning my three children, especially since they’re the impetus behind Mom’s Musings. Their father and I are in awe of the adults they’ve become, and although this might seem strange to say, I feel confident in the knowledge that after their parents have left this life for the next one, these children will continue to find their way(s).

Topic for the next several days: Alaska! And by the way, I hope to find inspiration for a blog name change through my writing this week. Maybe you’ll offer suggestions.

Ten Commandments of Voting

Don’t get your dander up. Although this is a post about the upcoming election, it’s not one that bashes either candidate. In fact, while eating lunch with a friend yesterday, we concurred that while our presidential choice differs, we still feel that both candidates are men of integrity. That said, I’m tiptoeing away from further discussion and want to write just a little about the importance of voting.

Don’t get your dander up. Although this is a post about the upcoming election, it’s not one that bashes either candidate. In fact, while eating lunch with a friend yesterday, we concurred that while our presidential choice differs, we still feel that both candidates are men of integrity. That said, I’m tiptoeing away from further discussion  and want to write just a little about the importance of voting.

We live, hands down, in the best country on the face of the earth. Naturally, I haven’t visited them all, except in books and other written material, but I feel fervently that this is a land choice above all other lands. I just finished reading The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly, and in it she describes the solitary confinement and brutal treatment of Teza who is serving a 20-year prison term for singing about politics and power in a country (Myanmar) where political dissent was (is?)  forbidden.

Here in America, people sing against, laugh at, and show disrespect for leaders and candidates, and nothing happens. I’m not saying that something should. I’m just saying that we take our freedom to speak and voice our opinion for granted. Last night I watched a SNL video of the debate between vice presidential candidates, and while I thought it was amusing, I was again struck by the incredible freedoms we have. In many countries, the actors would probably be dead by now. Or no, I doubt that some spoof like the one I saw would have even gotten off the ground.

Back to The Lizard Cage. I might never have known about this book had I not been introduced to it in The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. In this book, the author also relates three of “The Ten Commandments of Voting,” a pamphlet that his mother had been given while visiting an African country in which people were allowed to vote freely for the first time. I’m listing these three commandments right from Schwalbe’s books in the hope that they’ll move you as much as they did me.

  1. You have nothing to fear. Remember that your vote is secret. Only you and your God know how you vote.
  2. People who promise things that they never give are like clouds and wind that bring no rain: do not be misled by promises.
  3. Your vote is your power: use it to make a difference to your life and your country.

What can I add to these statements written in a pamphlet encouraging people who were able to vote freely for the first time, people who were well aware of the privilege and power of casting their vote? Nothing, unless it’s to remind everyone of our insanely wonderful (and sometimes wacky) American culture and all of the freedoms we have.